Tuesday, August 23, 2005

In the Doghouse

It never ceases to amaze me the number of reality TV shows which sound like Chris Morris spoofs, but actually turn out to be genuine. ITV have already announced the impending arrival of 'Celebrity Shark Bait', where they plan to dangle caged B-list celebs into shark infested waters, but the BBC have issued a swift counter-punch in the you-cannot-be-serious stakes, with the launch on BBC2 last night of 'Bring Your Husband to Heel', a new weekly programme which claims that "using dog training methods on men really isn't as crazy as you might think".

So it must just be me then.

The show's presenter is Annie Clayton, a former actress, singer and dancer, who once worked with Bruce Forsyth and Morecambe & Wise, and who's now turned her hand to dog training in an effort to get back on TV. Annie, who's a kind of Barbara Woodhouse for the new millennium, confidently states "I firmly believe you can train a husband like a dog". Of course, if you replaced the word 'husband' with 'woman', you'd become a national hate figure. And replace it with 'black man' and you'll end up in jail. But 'husband', no problem. Give the woman her own show.

And so it began - a programme which promised to cure the bad habits of troublesome husbands using techniques usually reserved for dogs. Of course, I began the half hour with only limited sympathy for the foolhardy bloke who'd actually volunteered to be trained like a dog for a week...

... only to find that he hadn't. Volunteered that is. We were introduced to Margaret and John Elliott, a middle-aged couple from Darlington, who had agreed to be filmed for a week, only to be informed that John had been told he was taking part in a documentary about relationship roles, and had no idea he was going to be treated like a dog for seven days. Is it me, or is that a bit unethical? Oh well, never mind. At least he gets to be on TV.

John, it seems, is a highly successful businessman who goes to work every day, and has provided a frankly stunning home for his family - all black marble, leather sofas, and classic cars in the driveway. The couple are living in the lap of luxury. But for Margaret it's just not enough. She wants John to do the washing up too.

Cue the arrival of Annie Clayton, who informs us that men can be trained like dogs because "both have an unhealthy obsession with balls". I presume she means kicking them, not scratching them. Annie set about teaching Margaret how to handle a dog, and proved that nagging a little shitzu does nothing - you have to jerk his lead a bit if you want him to do as you say.

Margaret soon started putting into practice what she'd learnt, and lo it's a miracle - she found that if she actually thanks John for putting his hat away, rather than constantly moaning about what a waste of space he is (whilst sitting at the luxury marble breakfast bar his money has provided), then he tends to do a bit more around the house.

It was something of a revelation, and makes me particularly excited about the follow up series, which I assume must be in the pipeline: 'Smack Your Bitch Up - The Complete Guide to Keeping Your Wife in Line'.